I once was on the Late Show with David Letterman. I played Dave’s son in a very funny sketch that was seen by millions and I’m proud of that.
For the role of Harry Letterman they wanted an early 20’s angry degenerate. I think the actual description was, “looks like a rebellious junky”. Of course my agent suggested me. At the time, I was my talent agency’s go-to for anything resembling a drug addict.
In my industry you have to play up your most distinct outward qualities. Are you a fat bearded guy? Wear skinny jeans and a crop-top! Missing a hand? Showcase that in your headshot by placing your nub on your chin!
I looked so much like an angsty little prescription pill thief that I didn’t even have to audition for this Letterman gig. They booked me right off my photos. I love that sort of stress-free booking. What a relief to not have to audition with thirty other junkies competing to see who could look more emo.
The only stressful part about the entire procedure was that this was a legitimately last minute booking. I got the call at 10 am and had to be at the Ed Sullivan Theater at noon for a 4pm live taping. But fuck it. For a comedy God like David Letterman you drop everything and get your ass to Times Square. I was gonna meet Dave Letterman!
“I love those tattoos, I think we wanna show them on camera, so let’s get you a sleave-less shirt.”, the costume girl said. I was struggling to put on a leather wrist-cuff as I listened to the makeup girl discuss whether eyeliner would be part of my character. I was up for anything. But I couldn’t help but ask, “When do I get to meet Dave?” This department wasn’t sure.
I had my own greenroom, where we would shoot my scene. It was Father’s Day and Harry Letterman was visiting his dad at the studio. The plan was for them to cut to me in the room where I’d be drinking a beer, acting all emo. Dave would tell me he loves me thru the camera, I’d call him fatty and break my beer bottle on the wall. That was the plan.
“This beer bottle isn’t gonna break unless you empty it of all the beer,” I told the producer.
“Well, we wanna be able to see that there’s beer inside it, so just do the best you can.”
“But I’m telling you, this isn’t gonna break with this liquid in it, especially when I throw it off the wall — it’s not a hard enough surface. I’ve broken many a bottle before.”
“Just do the best you can to break it.”
“How bout I throw it through the television instead?” (There was a tv in the greenroom.)
“I need to get that approved.”
“Okay, meanwhile, any chance I can meet Dave?”
“I have to check on that too.”
He didn’t get the TV destruction approved. In television and film a fart needs to get approved.
I also fought for, and did not get, approval to pour out half the contents of the Budweiser bottle and that would nearly cause a disaster later on. As for meeting Dave, I was still waiting on that paperwork to go through.
In live TV you get one take and one take only. The producer had me rehearse my few lines and actions. Then I was to sit and watch the show on the TV in the greenroom and wait for Dave to address my presence, saying “I love you, son.” And then ACTION JONESY! So I was never going to be in the same room with Dave, we were to be shot separately.
I was so fucking nervous thinking about how many people were watching that shit and how easily I could mess this up and how that god damn beer bottle could create havoc if it didn’t break as hoped for. And that’s what nearly happened.
Dave greeted me thru the TV. I said my line, “Good one, fatty.”, and then I threw that bottle with all my might at the wall. Instead of breaking, it bounced right back at my face, nearly hitting me, and in that action the contents of the bottle sprayed all over me. So there I was sitting with beer pouring down my face, trying to maintain composure during the few seconds I had to stay, “in character”. It was definitely a test. But I passed.
Afterward the show, the producers congratulated me for handling the beer bottle gaffe. They didn’t expect that. I’m not one to say, “told ya so”, and besides I was concerned with only one thing at that point. WHEN CAN I MEET DAVE??!?!?
“Oh, well, Dave doesn’t do that.”
“Doesn’t do what?
“He doesn’t usually come back here to meet guests.”
“That’s cool, ya know, I don’t mind going to him?”
“Yea, it’s just that Dave is very busy and doesn’t have time for that kinda thing.”
“I won’t take up his time, I just wanna shake his hand. Please can you just ask him for me? Tell him it’s the guy that played his son.”
“Can’t do it, sorry.”
“But I’m his son. His son. Doesn’t that count for something?”
“Unfortunately no. I’m really sorry.”
And that’s how I found out that Dave Letterman is not that cool. The guy wouldn’t even meet his on-screen son. As a consolation prize they sent in that bald dude, Pauly, to take a photo with me and I could tell he was aggravated to do so. Meeting guests was a bother to him as well.
I was in such poor financial shape at the time in NYC, I didn’t even own a television. When I got home I knocked on one of my neighbor’s door to ask if I could watch myself on the Letterman Show that evening. Initially she didn’t really believe me, but we watched it together and my performance got a big laugh.
After the broadcast was over, my neighbor asked me a question about the whole experience that I couldn’t answer: “So, what was Dave like?”
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